The LORD: His Sovereignty and Providential Care (Numbers 33-34)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 33-34

The sovereignty of the LORD, His providential care, and compassion for the Twelve Tribes of Israel are rehearsed as we come to Numbers 33.

From Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt (33:3-7), her exodus through the midst of the Red Sea (33:8), her stops and starts along the way (33:5-37), and the LORD’S miraculous provision during the nation’s forty-year journey in the wilderness… we marvel at what God hath wrought! Suddenly and unceremoniously we read:

Numbers 33:38-39 – And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. 39  And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.

Aaron’s death at the threshold of the Promised Land (33:38-39) and the dawning of a new era remind us a whole generation has perished since Israel’s exodus. This was a generation who stubbornly refused to trust and obey the LORD.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all are dead.

Numbers 33:40-49 records the nation’s journey to the encampment where the nation will soon cross over into Canaan, the Promised Land.

The land is everything the LORD had promised: a fertile and fruitful country. However, it was a land inhabited by Canaanites, an idolatrous, heathen people whom Israel would need to drive out in order to possess it (33:40, 50-54). The LORD commanded Moses to tell “the sons of Israel” (33:51-52) to destroy all the ways of the Canaanites, their idols and the high places where they worshipped.

Israel was to be intolerant of the Canaanites. Should they fail to destroy the heathen, God’s people were warned the Canaanites would become “pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (33:55, 33:56). Sadly, Israel would fail, and the nation would suffer perpetual sorrows as a result (Joshua 15:63; 16:10; 17:11-13; Judges 1:21-35).

The Borders Determined, the Land Divided (Numbers 34)

Numbers 34 records the borderlines of the land the LORD promised His people: the southern boundary (34:3-5), the western boundary (34:6), the northernmost boundary (34:7-9) and the eastern boundary (34:10-12).

Nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh would be assigned their portion on the west side of the Jordan River (34:13b; Joshua 14-19).  Per their prior request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had already determined their inheritance east of the Jordan River (33:14-15).

Lest there arise jealousy and discord among the tribes, the LORD determined to divide the land by lot (34:13) with Joshua presiding and Eleazar acting as the LORD’S priest (34:16-17).  A leader of each tribe, described as a “prince,” represented their tribal families as the land was divided (34:18-29).

In case you might be tempted to conclude the casting of lots (34:13) to determine land assignments was left to fate, the presence of Eleazar the high priest implied the LORD, not man, was sovereign in the portions of land that fell to the tribes and families.

Be encouraged: The same LORD who directed Israel’s portions to fall to her tribes by lot is our God who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11)!

2 Corinthians 5:7 – “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith